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English 303: Multimedia Writing: Copyright rights

Copyright and multimedia for eBook writing

What IS covered by copyright

Section 102(a) of the Copyright Act defines what is protected;
“Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression…” (italics added)

It goes on to state, “Works of authorship include the following categories":

(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) sound recordings; and
(8) architectural works


What is NOT covered by copyright

Not all works are covered by copyright.  

Section 102(b) of the Copyright Acts states that  "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."

In other words, ideas are not copyrightable nor are speeches (unless written down).  The item must be in a "tangible form of expression"  before a copyright can be attached to it.

Items used commonly - such as a calendar or a list without creativity - like a phone book, are also not eligible for copyright protection.

Another type of material that is not covered by copyright are government documents.  These include bills, laws, congressional reports, census studies and all other types of material that the federal government in involved in publishing. 

Do you have the right to copy?

In addition ot fair use, there are exceptions to the copyright holders rights that cover the use or copying of part of a copyrighted work, particularly with regards to education and teaching:

  • Section 107:  Fair Use - If the copying falls under one or more of the 4 fair use factors, it MIGHT be considered a fair use exemption

  • Section 108:  Reproduction by libraries and archives  - Libraries and archives (and their users) have exemptions to make copies of journal articles. small sections of books, etc.  - if the use is going to be held by that individual only, is research related and is not for profit

  • Section 109:  Effect of transfer of particular copy or phonorecord - Allows for owners of a copy or phonorecord to transfer that copy by loan, sale or just giving it away.  Also known as the First Sale Doctrine

  • Section 110:  Exemption of certain performances and displays -  Among other things, allows for display/performance of some works when used in face-to-face instruction.